First Portuguese to take covid-19 vaccine in Portugal calls for vaccination

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The Portuguese face who took the first vaccine against covid-19, doctor António Sarmento, today called for vaccination to “save” the health of the Portuguese, but also professionals and resources of an SNS “in crisis but which has a solution”.

“Vaccination is very important. The vaccine is safe and, in addition to people’s health, it saves a huge influx to health centers and hospital emergency services, which are already undersized even for the routine and which, in a peak situation, get worse,” António Sarmento said today.

In an interview with the Lusa news agency, the doctor who precisely three years ago was the first Portuguese to be vaccinated against covid-19, an act he said was not “heroic”, but which he knows “helped influence the decision of many people”, is concerned about the current crisis in the National Health Service (SNS), something he believes “better management of the influx into hospitals could help”.

“And the vaccine is very important for that: please get vaccinated,” he repeated.

Professor Dr António Sarmento
Professor Dr António Sarmento

António Sarmento, who was director of the infectiology service at the Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João (CHUSJ) in Porto for 16 years, received the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech on December 27, 2020.

What was, he said, “a normal day”, became a milestone in the history of health in Portugal, with the infectious disease specialist appearing before the then Minister of Health, Marta Temido, and the current leader of the SNS Executive Board, Fernando Araújo, who was chairman of CHUSJ’s board of directors at the time.

“When he told me I was going to be the first, I thought: ‘the first in the hospital? Okay. It makes sense to set an example. When I saw all those journalists I was surprised. I don’t feel special. I was happy to receive an amazing vaccine that helped a lot in reducing the number of cases,” recalls the doctor who, at 68, isn’t thinking of retiring because he “doesn’t want to abandon ship”.

“I could have retired by now, but I’m not going to retire unless I have to because this [referring to healthcare in Portugal] is bad and it worries me. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to sort things out, but it bothers me to leave the boat at this stage and in this way,” he said.

Asked about solutions, António Sarmento first made a point: “This goes back a long way. The SNS was designed 50 years ago for a social, epidemiological and medical reality that has nothing to do with today.”

António Sarmento told Lusa that the SNS “worked extremely well in the dimension for which it was designed”, but “after 10 years, it had to start being adapted because society began to change vertiginously”.

“In the early years of underfunding, the SNS was still going strong because of the human capital it had, a human capital full of energy and enthusiasm. And because of the equipment it acquired. But medicine is an eminently human activity and very much reflects the humanity or inhumanity of society. This society is becoming fiercely and progressively individualistic and is losing its sense of the common good. And this affects politicians, doctors, nurses and the population in general,” he said.

For the doctor, who is currently in charge of the Clinical Academic Centre that links CHUSJ and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP), where he still teaches and chairs infectiology, we need to believe that “there are solutions” and “minimize the damage as quickly as possible”.

António Sarmento is one of the 100 honorees on the list of citizens, entities and companies that Porto City Council will distinguish today at a ceremony at Casa da Música that will be attended by the Minister of Health, Manuel Pizarro.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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